2009 AISC Student Design Competition

AISC is pleased to announce the ninth annual student design competition for the 2008-2009 academic year. Sponsored by The Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) and the American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC), the program is intended to challenge students, working individually or in teams, to explore a variety of issues related to the use of steel in design and construction.

For more information about this competition click here.

CATEGORY I – LIFE CYCLE OF A SCHOOL will challenge architecture students to design a school for the 21st century that critically examines life cycle and proposes an innovative solution in steel. The problem of urban growth and decay is larger than an individual building. Therefore, architects should consider a total life cycle assessment approach to designing buildings so that they may be adaptable, flexible, and accommodate change. This project will allow students to explore many varied functional and aesthetic uses for steel as a building material. Steel is an ideal material for schools because it offers the a high strength to weight ratio and can be designed systematically as a kit of parts or prefabricated to allow for quicker construction times and less labor, thus reducing the cost of construction. Schools constructed in steel are more flexible and adaptable to allow for diversity of uses over the life of the facility.

CATEGORY II – OPEN with limited restrictions. This open submission design option will permit the greatest amount of flexibility.

STRUCTURAL STEEL – For both categories of the competition, steel should be used as the primary structural material with special emphasis placed on innovation in steel design. Structural steel offers a number of strengths in building design, including high resiliency and performance under harsh and difficult conditions (e.g., earthquakes and hurricanes). It offers the ability to span great distances with slenderness and grace. Steel can be shaped to achieve curved forms and can be raised quickly to meet tough construction schedules in almost any weather conditions. Steel can be easily modified to satisfy changing requirements. With virtually all of today’s structural steel produced in the U.S. made from recycled cars and other steel products. It is the environmentally sound choice for a building material.

Winning students, their faculty sponsors, and schools will receive cash prizes totaling $14,000.The design jury will meet May 2009, to select winning projects and honorable mentions. Winners and their faculty sponsors will be notified of the competition results directly. A list of winning projects will be posted on the ACSA website ( and the AISC website (

Registration Begins: December 5, 2008 (there is no fee for registration)
Registration Deadline: February 9, 2009
Submission Deadline: May 6, 2009
Winners Announced: May 2009
Summary Publication: Summer/Fall 2009

GUIDELINES (Category I & Category II)

Because the support of AISC is largely derived from steel organizations in the U.S., the competition is open to students from ACSA member schools in the U.S., Canada and Mexico only. The competition is open to upper level students (third year or above, including graduate students). All student entrants are required to work under the direction of a faculty sponsor. Entries will be accepted for individual as well as team solutions. Teams must be limited to a maximum of five students. Submissions should be principally the product of work in a design studio or related class.

Faculty who wish to enroll students must complete an online Registration Form (available at by February 9, 2009. Complete a form for each individual student or team of students participating. Students or teams wishing to enter the competition on their own must have a faculty sponsor, who should complete the form. There is no entry or submission fee required to participate in the competition. Each registered student and faculty sponsor will receive a confirmation email that will include information on how to upload your final submission online.

Students who wish to enter the competition must have a faculty sponsor register them for the competition. Once students are registered, they will receive a username (email) and password for submitting.

The administration of the competition at each institution is left to the discretion of the faculty sponsor(s) within the guidelines set forth in this document. Work on the competition should be structured over the course of one semester during the 2008-2009 academic year.

Each faculty sponsor is expected to develop a system to evaluate the work of the students using the criteria set forth in this program. The evaluation process should be an integral part of the design process, encouraging students to scrutinize their work in a manner similar to that of the jury. The final result of the design process will be a submission of up to four presentation boards describing the design solution. In addressing the specific issues of the design challenge, submissions must clearly demonstrate the design solution’s response to the following requirements:

•A strength of the argument and the proposal’s ability to support life cycle concept for the design (Category I);
•An articulate mastery of formal concepts and aesthetic values;
•A mature awareness and innovative approach to environmental issues;
•An elegant expressive understanding of the material – Steel;
•A thorough appreciation of human needs and social responsibilities;
•A capability to integrate functional aspects of the problem in a architectural manner, and
•A capacity to derive the maximum potential afforded by the program.

Each presentation must directly address the criteria outlined in the Design Challenge and Criteria for Judging and must include (but are not limited to) the following required drawings: site plan showing the surrounding buildings, topography, and circulation patterns; floor plans; elevations and building sections sufficient to show site context and major program elements; large scale drawing(s), either orthographic or three dimensional, illustrating the use of structural steel; a three dimensional representation in the form of either an axonometric, perspective, or model photographs, one of which should illustrate the character of the project. Submission must include:

•4 digital boards at 20” x 20”;
•at least 1 digital board that illustrate graphically or otherwise the life cycle concept for the school (Category I);
•illustrate graphically or otherwise the use of steel construction;
•a Design Essay;
Submissions that do not adhere to the program criteria outlined must provide a Program Brief (required for all entrants in Category II – OPEN). Incomplete or undocumented entries will be disqualified. All drawings should be presented at a scale appropriate to the design solution and include a graphic scale and north arrow.

Submissions must be designed on no more than four 20” x 20” digital boards. The names of student participants, their schools, or faculty sponsors, must NOT appear on the boards.

All boards are required to be uploaded through the ACSA website in Portable Document Format (PDF) or Image (JPEG) Files. Participants should keep in mind that, due to the large number of entries, preliminary review does not allow for the hanging end to end display of presentation boards. Accordingly, participants should not use text or graphics that cross over from board to board. The names of student participants, their schools, or faculty sponsors, must NOT appear on any of the submitted material.

A brief essay, 500 words maximum, (in English) is required as part of the submission describing the most important concepts of the design project. Keep in mind that the presentation should graphically convey the design solution and context as much as possible, and not rely on the design essay to convey a basic understanding of the project. The names of student participants, their schools, or faculty sponsors, must NOT appear in the design essay.

Entries must be uploaded through the ACSA Competition website at by 5:00 pm, Eastern Time, on May 6, 2009. If the Submission is from a team of students all student team members will have the ability to upload the digital files. Once the final submit button is pressed no additional edits, uploads, or changes can be made. Once the final Submission is uploaded and submitted each student will receive a confirmation email notification.

A final Submission upload must contain the following:

•Completed online submission information including all Team Members and Faculty Sponsors;
•Each of the four 20”x20” boards uploaded individually as a high resolution Portable Document Format (PDF) or Image (JPEG) Files;
•A Design Essay.

Winning projects will be required to submit original files/images for use in competition publications and exhibit materials.

Additional questions on the competition program and submissions should be addressed to:

Eric W. Ellis/AISC Competition
Association of Collegiate
Schools of Architecture
1735 New York Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20006
tel: 202.785.2324 (ext 8, Competitions Hotline)
fax: 202.628.0448


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